Mixed performance for ceramics firms

Churchill China increased profits by nearly 50% despite volumes reducing and “soft trading conditions within the UK”.

Revenues were up 6% to £44.0m in the six months to June driven by higher sales to its hospitality customers.

Pre-tax profits, before exceptional items, rose faster – up 47% to £5.0m.

Robin Williams, chairman of Churchill China, said: “This is as a result of our strategic focus on value added product, which has increased its share of total revenue by 1% year on year and helped to improve the margin performance of the business.

“Increased production costs, driven by both material and labour, have been mitigated by the price increases implemented last year and improvements in labour efficiencies and efficient energy purchasing has meant that margin expectations should be met for the year.”

Separately, the homewares and fragrance group Portmeirion found it tougher during the period, breaking even on £44.1m sales.

The revenues were down 3% on the previous year, which had been a record, which it blamed on “increased caution on ordering from US customers, in particular the destocking by retailer customers”.

The group, whose brands include Wax Lyrical, Royal Worcester and Spode, said it saw “solid growth in the UK, South Korea and rest of world markets”.

Portmeirion chief executive Mike Raybould added: “We are successfully controlling overheads despite the significant inflationary environment and will continue to target further global synergies in our cost base over the next 12 months.

“Alongside ongoing improved factory productivity in our Stoke site and as global container shipping rates return to historical levels, we remain confident of delivering our medium and long term operating margin growth targets.”